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World Battlefronts: Slow But Sure, II

2 minute read

In New Guinea, jungle-wise Australians mopped up the Huon Peninsula. Along rugged, malaria-ridden trails, with the help of Matilda tanks, they pushed converging columns toward Jap outposts. Their immediate objective: to clear the enemy from the hinterland of Finschhaven, the port captured almost two months ago by a bold amphibious stroke (TIME, Oct. 4). From Finschhaven some 70 miles of blue water lead to Jap-held New Britain: across that island’s curving 300 miles lies Rabaul.

The Aussies, moving slowly over a peninsula as big as Connecticut, had support from Allied air and sea arms. The New Britain shore nearest New Guinea took a sustained bombing. Madang, the feeder base for the Jap Huon line and 200 miles up the coast from Finschhaven, took a night shelling from U.S. warships. Gasmata, a New Britain stronghold, got a similar dose of gunfire. In both actions, U.S. vessels penetrated waters that had been Jap preserves since early 1942, had seldom smelled the powder of the U.S. Navy.

The time when General Douglas MacArthur’s limited forces will land on New Britain may not be too far off. The Jap was preparing. Allied reconnaissance spotted a flow of Jap shipping toward Rabaul. Not all the enemy got through: U.S. Navy Catalinas and U.S. Liberators hit two destroyers, set a tanker afire, sank a 10,000-ton transport.

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